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How Serious Are Poland’s Grand Strategic Disagreements With The US?

How Serious Are Poland’s Grand Strategic Disagreements With The US?

15 JUNE 2021

How Serious Are Poland

Few could have expected that one of America’s top allies anywhere in the world would so seriously disagree with its patron, but that’s exactly what happened after Polish officials publicly expressed deep concern over the US’ recent recalibration of relations with Russia, prompting observers to wonder exactly how far everything will go and towards what ultimate ends.

Poland is widely regarded as one of America’s top allies anywhere in the world and with good reason considering that it’s marched in lockstep with its patron ever since the end of communism in 1989 with only a single exception. That was the Obama-era “Reset” with Russia, which Poland regarded as a betrayal of its national security interests even though that policy eventually failed. History is once again repeating itself, however, after Polish officials publicly expressed deep concern over the Biden Administration’s recent recalibration of relations with Russia which some fear might be even more disastrous for their country’s national security than Obama’s plans to change the nature of the US’ missile defense shield in this geostrategically positioned Central & Eastern European (CEE) country.

Poland was surprised by the Biden Administration’s decision to waive most Nord Stream II sanctions last month, with different officials describing this move as a “threat” to energy security and even a “gas bomb placed under European integration”. Prime Minister Morawiecki very loudly condemned what he called the US’ “180-degree change of policy” towards Russia in an exclusive interview that he recently gave to Newsweek, which was followed by his Foreign Minister expressing deep “regret” over Biden’s refusal to meet with CEE leaders ahead of his summit with President Putin. The end result is that Poland is presently in a very serious geostrategic predicament after proverbially putting all of its eggs into the basket of Trump’s re-election. This was the culmination of a series of counterproductive policy calculations that I elaborated upon earlier in the month.

In summary, Poland’s practically pathological expression of “negative nationalism” vis-a-vis Russia was responsible for it obsessively doing everything in its power to undermine its Great Power neighbor in the contested “sphere of influence” between them in Belarus and Ukraine ever since 2013. This absolutely ruined relations with Russia and therefore made it impossible for Poland to take advantage of the opportunity to “balance” between East and West in pursuit of better deals from both of its neighbors. Instead, it eagerly submitted itself to the US’ regional strategic designs, only to have Biden pull the rug out from under its leaders’ feet in recent weeks as America once again pursued its own interests at Poland’s expense. I forecast the larger consequences of this for Eurasia in my latest analysis for the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC).

It also deserves mentioning that the Polish leadership’s conservative-nationalist worldview is the ideological opposite of the present American’s liberal-globalist one, a point that was further emphasized in Morawiecki’s interview where he envisioned a “Europe of homelands” instead of the “United States of Europe” that the US is nowadays more in favor of. Although this prompted an RT contributor to wonder whether a “Polexit” might be in the cards sometime later this decade if the ideological contradiction between Warsaw and EU-leader Berlin isn’t resolved soon enough, it’s highly unlikely that anything of the sort will ever transpire because the CEE leader immensely benefits from the bloc’s free movement of goods, services, and people. Rather, it’s much more likely that Poland might seek to turn its “Three Seas Initiative” into less of a complement to the European project like Morawiecki told Newsweek that it is and more of an intra-organizational ideological competitor.

It’s too early to say whether that’ll happen, but it’s already undeniable that Poland has suddenly become much more isolated on the European stage due both to its deliberately counterproductive policies towards Russia as well as the bloc’s leading members like Germany supporting the US’ pragmatic recalibration of relations with Moscow. Morawiecki also mentioned in his earlier cited interview that while he’s concerned about some of China’s growing influence, he nevertheless “believe(s) that competition is good and some competition coming from China—not the sort that is subsidized or where there is price dumping or industrial output via slave labor, but outside those abuses, competition is not bad for us. And we are open for the Chinese investments strengthening our intelligence competitive capacities and our abilities to defend vis-à-vis their attacks.” This suggests a possible economic pivot towards China if relations with the US can’t be repaired.

That said, the US probably isn’t going to ever abandon Poland and thus open up the possibility of it economically pivoting towards the People’s Republic. Biden will probably retain his country’s recently bolstered military presence in Poland or at the very least ensure that some robust NATO presence remains in order to symbolically reassure its leadership that the US hasn’t “sold it out to Russia” like they increasingly fear. At the same time, however, American pressure on Poland might increase, including through more covert US support for the German Hybrid War on Poland that’s seen Berlin back a rolling Color Revolution over the past few years which aims to replace its target’s conservative-nationalist government with liberal-globalist puppets.

With any improvement of relations with Russia being politically impossible especially in light of recent so-called “spy scandals” (one of which is arguably paranoid persecution of a genuine human rights activist), the only realistic policy option for Poland in the event of worsening ties with America (or at the very least growing mistrust and associated suspicion of its “ally’s” grand strategic motives vis-a-vis Russia) is to focus on accelerating the comprehensive expansion of ties with China. Poland is already China’s top partner in CEE by virtue of its enormous population, strong economy, and geostrategic position, so it wouldn’t be difficult in principle for Warsaw to strategically partner with Beijing if the political will is present.

It should also be remembered that China is pioneering a high-speed railway from the Hungarian capital of Budapest to the Greek port of Pireaus which could even expand as far northwards as Warsaw and Helsinki by the end of the decade so the People’s Republic certainly has an interest in cultivating more strategic partnerships in CEE, especially with Poland. If Poland already believes (whether rightly or wrongly) that the US “sold it out to Russia” and that Washington might even soon throw more of its covert weight behind Berlin’s ongoing Hybrid War, then Warsaw wouldn’t really have anything to lose by at the very least beginning to seriously explore this policy proposal.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Biden, Putin, New Cold War, Poland, US, Russia, China, Three Seas Initiative, 3SI, Belt & Road Initiative, BRI, Balancing.


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The LAPSSET Corridor Is China’s Latest Silk Road In East Africa

The LAPSSET Corridor Is China’s Latest Silk Road In East Africa

24 MAY 2021

The LAPSSET Corridor Is China

IGAD’s Chinese-backed infrastructure projects will eventually create a regional version of Beijing’s vision for a Community of Common Destiny, one of the central philosophical tenets behind BRI.

The Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopian (LAPSSET) Transport Corridor in the northeastern Kenyan port of the same name received its first ships last Thursday. The project hasn’t yet been fully completed but is nonetheless finally operational. China is responsible for its construction and considers it to be a major Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) investment in East Africa. The LAPSSET Corridor will connect those three countries and help relieve congestion along the Nairobi-Mombasa one. Speaking of which, China completed Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) extending between the capital city and its host country’s main port a few years back in 2017.

There’s more to China’s BRI plans for East Africa than just those two infrastructure projects, however. China also completed the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway between the Ethiopian capital and its neighboring gateway to the Red Sea in 2018. In addition, China reached a deal earlier this week with Uganda to rehabilitate a century-old railway between its capital of Kampala and the Kenyan border. Although not a formal extension of the SGR like was originally planned, it’ll nevertheless de facto fulfill the same purpose of facilitating Ugandan exports to the wider world through Mombasa Port.

The end result is that China is gradually connecting the countries of East Africa closer together. Three of them – Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda – are part of the East African Community (EAC), a regional trade bloc that aspires to more closely integrate along the lines of the EU sometime in the coming future. Ethiopia isn’t part of that bloc, but all four countries comprise the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which also includes Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan. It can therefore be said that China’s recent Silk Road efforts are concentrated in the broader IGAD region instead of just the EAC.

This part of Africa is regarded by many observers as among the most economically promising and stable, barring few exceptions like South Sudan and Somalia. Even so, those two have recently stabilized in their own way as a result of political compromises between warring parties. LAPSSET will certainly help bring more developmental opportunities and employment to the former while the latter is a peninsular country with plenty of opportunities to trade with the rest of the world as it is. Concentrating on LAPSSET though, it also serves other strategic purposes than simply providing South Sudan with a corridor to the sea.

Ethiopia is the regional giant with the second largest population on the continent. It has practically infinite developmental promise and previously recorded some of the world’s highest growth levels up until COVID-19 caused the current global economic crisis. A country with such potential understandably wants to diversify its trade routes and not be dependent on any single corridor. This explains the pragmatism behind LAPSSET since it serves that purpose by complementing Ethiopia’s other Chinese-constructed gateway to the Red Sea, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway.

IGAD’s Chinese-backed infrastructure projects will eventually create a regional version of Beijing’s vision for a Community of Common Destiny, one of the central philosophical tenets behind BRI. Regional integration is one of the top trends of the 21st century, but it requires significant capital investment in most Global South cases as well as the proper expertise to construct the requisite infrastructure there. China provides both no-strings-attached loans and highly qualified labor in order to achieve this, thereby fulfilling its responsibility to the Global South as the world’s largest developing nation.

Since IGAD can be regarded as an extension of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) due to its geography, it can be said that such Chinese investments are playing a crucial role in integrating this increasingly strategic space within which many observers predict most 21st-century trends will converge. South-South cooperation through LAPSSET and its regional sister projects provides an excellent example of China’s new model of international development. It treats partners as equals and not as subordinates like the US does, provides no-strings-attached loans unlike conditional American ones, and results in win-win outcomes instead of zero-sum games.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: China, Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, IGAD, Belt & Road Initiative, BRI, LAPSSET Corridor.


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Debunking Bloomberg: Biden’s Afghan Withdrawal Isn’t A Blow To China

20 APRIL 2021

Debunking Bloomberg: Biden

It was hyperbole for Ghosh to claim that ‘Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is A Blow To China’. It might only be so in the worst-case scenario, which is far from certain.

Bloomberg published an op-ed last week provocatively claiming that “Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is A Blow To China”. Opinion columnist Bobby Ghosh argues that the country might soon slip back into an all-out civil war that would not only disrupt China’s connectivity interests in the country, but also spill over to threaten the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In addition, he predicts that Afghanistan will become “a sanctuary for jihadists of every stripe — some of whom will undoubtedly direct their attention to that very short, mountainous and porous border with China.”

This line of thinking is typical of what many in the Western mainstream media are saying. They were against former US President Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban last year and subsequent promise to complete his country’s military withdrawal by the beginning of next month. His successor, US President Joe Biden, will instead initiate the full withdrawal by that date and complete it before the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Some establishment voices fear that this will create strategic opportunities for China and the US’ other so-called peer competitors like Russia to exploit for zero-sum ends against American interests.

In reality, however, it’s in everyone’s interests that the US completes its promised withdrawal from Afghanistan as soon as possible. America has spent trillions of dollars there without much of anything to show for it. It’s true that Afghanistan now has a governing system comparatively closer (key word) to Western democracy than before and that woman now enjoy greater rights, but the Taliban still controls large swathes of the country and ISIS’ entry to the battlefield in 2014 immensely complicated the anti-terrorist situation there. Indefinitely continuing the US’ occupation of Afghanistan would only make matters much worse without solving anything.

By boldly agreeing to withdraw from the country and clearly articulating the strategic reasons behind this decision in his national speech on Wednesday, President Biden concluded that it’s better to cut America’s losses and simply move on even though the victimized Afghan people won’t be able to move past this twenty-year dark chapter of their national history so easily. In any case, their future is arguably brighter than before, not dimmer. The completion of the US’ withdrawal will unlock promising socio-economic opportunities for Afghanistan provided that their leadership and local stakeholders have the political will to support them.

To explain, it’s precisely because of China that this is possible. Afghanistan’s geostrategic location in the center of the tri-regional Central-South-West Asian space affords it enormous potential for connecting these three massive markets through BRI. In particular, CPEC’s de facto expansion into Afghanistan via the recently agreed Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway will complement existing rail connectivity with China via the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The Chinese-Iranian Strategic Partnership deal also creates the chance of further expanding this connectivity network to West Asia with time via W-CPEC+.

Domestically, the Afghan economy would require extensive reconstruction, but its reported $3 trillion worth of minerals – including some rare earth ones – could ideally be extracted in the most responsible way possible to ensure the equitable distribution of this wealth to every citizen. Coupled with grants and low-interest no-strings-attached loans from partner states like China and others, the Afghan people actually stand a very credible chance of succeeding in the future so long as their country can avert the all-out civil war that Ghosh fears might soon erupt.

That worst-case scenario is plausible, but nevertheless not inevitable. The Taliban, despite being designated as terrorists, have recently proven themselves to be shrewd diplomats on the international stage during multiple rounds of peace talks over the past few years. They seem to have understand the pragmatism of facilitating such connectivity and extractive projects for the purpose of improving their citizens’ living standards. Should they enter into the planned inclusive transitional government that’s been proposed, then they’ll probably not do anything to threaten those projects since they’ll too have a stake in their success.

Considering all of this, it was hyperbole for Ghosh to claim that “Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is A Blow To China”. It might only be so in the worst-case scenario, which is far from certain. What’s much more likely is that the existing low-intensity conflict continues but doesn’t reach catastrophic proportions. Instead, with the Taliban possibly becoming part of the Afghan government, the international community might remove their terrorist designation and accept them as equal stakeholders in Afghanistan’s future socio-economic success, a large part of which will be due to mutually beneficial cooperation with China.


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